In honor of Valentine's Day I thought I'd ponder love today. My understanding of love has changed through the years. Romantic love began as an ideal I created. I was completely in control of how Barbie and Ken interacted. As I got older, I tossed around lots of "shoulds" that I thought would create a perfect man and therefore a perfect relationship. A man should take out the garbage daily and work from 8am-5pm, arriving just before dinner to help get the family settled around for the meal. He should lead the family in Bible study and prayer, gathering everyone quietly around the living room, shortly before bed. He should buy flowers on special occasions and even not so special ones, too. He should treat his wife like a princess... a queen even! The list went on.
But as I grew into a real relationship, reality challenged that ideal. I realized I had a choice to either hold on to those ideals and become bitter with frustration and disappointment or allow myself and my love to be purified.
The Bible says one of the curses of Eve's apple eating flub up was that she would desire her husband and he would rule over her. (Now how am I going to get my "shoulds" taken care of that way?!). But, I set about working hard to mold my husband into who he should be from my perspective. I tried gently nudging him towards this mold with subtle hints and loving suggestions for "improvement". When this didn't work I tried everything else: yelling, crying, nagging, "helpful" books, marriage conferences, relationship retreats, etc. etc..
One day I landed on the video series "Love and Respect". This was the first time that I had ever heard that men have a different need than women in a relationship. I recognized my need for love but he was just as adamant that his need was for my respect. Well, with this new information, I realized how far short I had fallen for him as a wife. I decided to work on myself first... and then get back to my man perfecting practices.
Strangely, each time I chose to respect him, to give him room to be himself, to answer gently instead of sarcastically, to allow him to lead his way, etc. etc. it was as if my eyes were opened more and more to the amazing man that was already there. I have realized over the past couple of years that I am becoming more appreciative of art, God's art, creatively displayed in different human beings that do not fit into molds, even within my marriage. I'm so grateful that I began on this new path because it applies to parenting and friendships and working with people in general.
I decided to take this practice of respect to the basketball court. Andrew volunteered to coach Josiah's basketball team this year. You should know that I am the basketball player in the family. I knew that nothing he would do as a coach would be how I would do it. Just as we are polar opposite in every other part of our personalities, we would approach coaching differently, too. I also knew that a critical attitude would ruin the experience for everyone: him, Josiah, and probably the team. So I decided that I would not watch practices, this would limit my opportunities to be critical to just games and I thought I could manage to have tongue control once a week. I'm sure you can guess the out come. First of all, they're all having fun! I knew it. Josiah thinks it's so cool to have his dad as his coach. Second of all, players and parents are happy and praising their coach after every game and practice. In fact it's getting a little overboard... "alright already!" :) Thirdly, other parents on other teams are coming to him telling him what a great job he's doing. (I'm trying not to take this personally, after all they've never seen me coach. HA!) It's amazing how such a seemingly small role, coaching your kid's team, is making such a big impact in people's lives.
So, there is one other benefit that I've gotten to enjoy as a result of my original choice. I'm basking in the glory of being "that guy's" wife. Proverbs 31:23 says, "Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land." It's odd that in the middle of this section about a noble wife, there is a passage about her husband. But I believe her respect for him and her behavior allows him to fulfill all that God has planned for him. She really could make or break him. And, because of his position "at the gate", it is a reflection upon her. I was constantly reminded of this little verse this season and it's been exciting to watch how it all unfolds. Glad I didn't interfere!!